Thursday, October 10, 2013

The comparison trap

Today, a momma friend and I had a playdate (aka, Let our kids run wild for a bit while we enjoy a moment of sanity and coffee.) My house looked worse for wear, but it was a nice break for my soul.

Our conversation was very enlightening.

Really, your kids hit you in the face, too? I thought to myself as we talked.

You're kidding? I'm not the only one that has a hard time keeping up vacuuming?

Your kids won't eat a bite? Mine won't STOP eating, and it's driving me nutso.

And, maybe the not-so-expected . . .

So checking Facebook makes you a little crazy, too? Funny, I thought it was just me.

See, if you don't know me, you wouldn't know that I'm crazy-sensitive to Facebook posts on pregnancy. Now, given the fact that I'm in my early thirties, and people are popping kids out like skittles, I can't really get away from it. Some days most days, my newsfeed is completely full of pregnancy announcements, gender reveals, pregnancy complaints, ultrasound photos, belly shots, labor statuses and "Look, they've arrived" photos.

I once blogged that checking my newsfeed was akin to walking through a minefield. People didn't like that post so much. I guess they thought I was trying to compare innocent pregnancies and babies to a war field intent on obliterating people to pieces. So . . . on second thought . . . maybe not the best word picture.

But emotionally -- it CAN be like a minefield. It's like taking a beautiful stroll . . . everything looks calm, peaceful and innocent. And then BAM. Something blindsides you. And maybe it just hits you where you're sensitive. Or, maybe, it derails you for the entire day.

And since sometimes, I tend to think of myself as the center of a microcosm (aka, really, the universe), I thought it was JUST ME. (Don't we all?)

Until my friend said, "You know. I'm tired of seeing statuses about food. About what nutritious food my friends are eating and feeding their kids. Or what Skakeology program they are doing that is getting them in shape. I'm tired of seeing updates on losing that baby weight."

Now here is my super cute friend, who's way more in shape than I am, and her newsfeed keeps poking at her, like someone pokes at a bruise. Because she may be in shape -- but like she said, When is it enough? When have I lost ENOUGH weight? What if I look fine, but don't have that 6-pack I used to have? What if I like to go to McDonald's? What if I didn't lose weight as fast as the others? Do they look at me, and think, Gee -- she really could lose another 10 pounds?

And there it is.

See, Facebook is awesome for the really cool things. Like keeping in touch with old friends. Sharing photos with faraway relatives. Networking for your business, sharing thought-provoking blogs and articles, and meeting friends online who are going through exactly what you are going through.

But it's also the perfect setup for the perfect trap.


And I have a feeling, most of us are caught up in it. Especially us moms.

Checking Facebook is like "comparing everyone else's highlight reels to your behind-the-scenes," as a wise woman once said. And we all know the behind-the-scenes is not always pretty. Not always post worthy.

And instead of assuming everyone else has those same not-so-pretty behind-the-scenes, we falsely assume that their "status du jour" accurately represents their entire life.

That cute baby photo?

Maybe it conveys the idea that our little sinker is always this cute at meal time. That my life consists of going from one cute picture-perfect moment to another.

But that wouldn't be the whole story. Or even the right story.

It doesn't tell how this little miss had developmental delays causing her to eat at a 6-month level, instead of at a 12-month level. It doesn't explain that the reason she's eating Cheerios was because it was one of the only foods she would tolerate that was not a puree. It doesn't show the total frustration that often still consumes both baby and parents when it comes to food.

It doesn't show that the only reason she's in this house, getting the picture taken by yours truly, is because she is a ward of the state.

It also doesn't show how much our family went through (and how many babies didn't make it) on our path to become this little girl's forever family.

There always is so much behind the scenes, isn't there?

So what do you do when you find yourself on either side of the comparison trap?

I don't have any easy answers.

But for me, I've dealt with it this way . . .

When I know I'm feeling particularly vulnerable (to baby announcements or even clean house announcements or "I feel pretty amazing as a mom" announcements) I simply don't check my newsfeed. I'll admit, I keep posting. And perhaps selfishly, keep reading what comments people leave on my posts. But I don't go browsing through other people's lives when I know it's a matter of time before I'll say, "OUCH! That kinda hurt!"

I also try really hard to not take things personally. Their awesome day, or amazingly clean house, or rock-star worthy vacation is NOT MEANT to say anything about ME. It's not about me at all. And the moment I try to put myself in the equation, I take away any beauty that truly is in their post.

By that same token, I've stopped expecting people NOT to post. And instead, expect them TO post. The only thing I can really do is just take responsibility for my feelings, and take control of my Facebook time to meet my needs. Sometimes that means I block someone's updates JUST while they're pregnant -- and check in on their page on really good days. Sometimes that just means I take a mini FB vacation.

If I'm still thinking clearly by this point, instead of nursing the wounds of pricking my soul on that awful comparison trap, I make myself say all the things I'm grateful for. Gratitude has ridiculous healing powers for our hearts.

And if I'm really brave, I'll share some of those behind-the-scenes moments. Like this:

Screaming. Ehhhhh... not so cute.

Laundry. The bane of my existence. (Oh, that and dishes.)

What do you do you even do with this? Maddy's in there.
But finding her is like playing Where's Waldo?

Notice how my husband and I kinda look, well, dead?
(Maddy took this pic by the way. I didn't have any energy to hold up my hand.)

And last, I remind myself constantly of some of the wisest words ever shared with me.

"Curiosity did not kill the cat . . .

"Comparison did."

And I, for one, don't want to be that cat.

What do you do when you find yourself comparing? How do you get out of that trap and find gratitude in what you have? How do you navigate your Facebook "minefield"?

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